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LA TROBE UNIVERSITY STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING

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					                                 LA TROBE UNIVERSITY

             STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING
                      POLICY AND PROCEDURES



1   BACKGROUND

    In May 2005 a report into the Review of Complaint Handling in Victorian Universities was released
    following an investigation which commenced in August 2004. This report was released by the
    Victorian Ombudsman’s Office and involved eight (8) Victorian universities. The findings of this
    review were based on investigations with approx ninety-three (93) individuals from the eight
    universities, including reviewing university websites, publications and various focused forums.

    A meeting was called by the University Secretary to examine the findings of this report and its
    relationship with La Trobe University. A working party was formed to develop a Student Complaint
    Handling Procedure, building upon existing Policies, Regulations and Statutes within the
    University.


2   PREAMBLE

    The University encourages and welcomes feedback on aspects of the University’s operation. It
    recognises the rights of students to express dissatisfaction or make complaints about processes or
    services provided by the University. The University is committed to continuous improvement and
    ensures complaints and expressions of concern are analysed to improve academic and
    administrative services.

    The University is committed to transparent processes, ensuring complaints are dealt with fairly,
    consistently and promptly.

    The University’s procedures for handling grievances and complaints comply with Standards
    Australia’s Guide to prevention, Handling and Resolution of Disputes (AS4608 -2004) and
    Complaints Handling (AS4269-1995) and with the requirements of the Commonwealth Education
    Services for Overseas Students Act (2000) [ NOTE –in developing these procedures, they need to
    comply with these standards and once in draft form will be assessed against these.]


3   DEFINITION

    For the purpose of this document

    Complaint - a statement expressing disagreement or dissatisfaction made to a person in authority
    at La Trobe University that requires action or response.

    Grievance - a formal statement expressing disagreement or dissatisfaction where a student
    believed he/she has been adversely affected by a decision made to a person in authority at La
    Trobe University that requires action or response.


4   PRINCIPLES GOVERNING GRIEVANCE AND COMPLAINT RESOLUTION

    The following are the underlying principles of this procedure :-

        a) Accessible and simple – Students MUST know the avenues of logging a complaint and
           the process must be as simply as possible to follow.
        STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued



             b) Transparent – The processes for handling complaints and appeals must be
                transparent in operation and outcome.

             c) Equity – Complaints are dealt with in an equitable and culturally sensitive manner.

             d) Procedural Fairness – The process needs to ensure complaints are handled and
                judged on merit and there should be fairness to all concerned.

             e) Timely – Students must have ALL complaints dealt with in a timely manner.

             f)     Quality and improvement – The Complaint process MUST allow the University/Units to
                    reflect on practices and have the ability to improve them.

             g) Accountability – Specific staff within each major organisational unit within La Trobe
                University need to take on a complaint advocate role. We need to instil a culture that
                assists with complaint handling, rather than one which passes the problem. The
                University is well placed with the University’s Ombudsman’s Office and having one
                person in each Faculty/major organisation unit provides a mechanism to assist in the
                communication process relating to complaints.

             h) Confidential – The University will ensure information pertaining to the complaint will be
                keep confidential and used for the purpose for which it was collected, unless
                i) The express written consent of the individual(s) concerned is obtained; or
                ii) The University has reasonable grounds for believing that the use of the information
                will reduce threat to life or health of any person; or
                iii) The use is specifically required by law

             i)     This Complaint and Grievance handling Policy and Procedures do not derogate from
                    the rights of an individual under State and Federal law to make or pursue a complaint
                    through an external agency


5        SCOPE OF THE POLICY AND PROCEDURE

         This Policy covers any student of La Trobe University and any person applying for admission or
         scholarship to the University who may have a complaint about a decision, service, facility or
         process provided by the University, while they are or were undertaking, or applying for admission
         and/or scholarship in a University course or unit.


6        POLICY EXCLUSIONS

         This Policy applies to any student (as above) relating to academic or administrative decisions or
         processes with the exception of complaints relating to:-

                  Policy                                   Process Reference
                  Sexual Harassment                        www.latrobe.edu.au/equity/
                  Harassment and Discrimination            www.latrobe.edu.au/equity/
                  Bullying                                 www.latrobe.edu.au/equity/
                  Occupational Health and Safety           www.latrobe.edu.au/ohs/
                  Privacy                                  www.latrobe.edu.au/privacy
                  Trade Practices Complaints               www.complaintline.com.au/trpractbreach.html
                  Copyright                                www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/copyright.html
                  Academic or General Misconduct           www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html
                  Regulation 16.1, 16.2
                  Academic Progress                        www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html
                  Regulation 19.1
                  Other policies approved by Council       www.latrobe.edu.au/policies/




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7        TYPES OF GRIEVANCES

         Academic Grievances

         These are normally complaints or appeals against academic activities. They include but are not
         limited to :-

              Reg/Stat    Grievance nature                      Process Reference
              R19.1        Academic Progress of Students        www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html
              R19.1        Exclusion for Academic reasons       www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html
              R21.12       Reassessment of Academic Work        www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html
                           A decision of a member of staff that Complaint Handling Policy
                           affects an individual or group of
                           students
                           Selection or admission decisions     Complaint Handling Policy
                           Content or structure of academic Complaint Handling Policy
                           programs, nature of teaching etc
                           Supervision issues for research Complaint Handling Policy
                           degree students

         It is important to note that appeals relating to Academic Progress, Exclusion and Reassessment
         should follow the procedure detailed in the relevant university regulations.

         Administrative Grievances

         These relate to decisions or actions associated with administrative or academic services. They
         include but are not limited to :-

              Reg/Stat    Grievance nature                      Process Reference
                           Administration of    Policies, Complaint Handling Policy
                           procedures and rules by the
                           University.
                           A decision of a member of staff that Complaint Handling Policy
                           affects an individual or group of
                           students
                           Access to University resources and Complaint Handling Policy
                           facilities except where covered by
                           Sexual Harassment, Harassment
                           and Discrimination Policy and
                           Procedure.

         Discrimination, harassment and bullying

         It is important to note that because other procedures apply, students should not follow the
         Complaint handling process as detailed in this document for the following grievances. References
         have been given to the Policy/Regulations which should be followed.


8        GROUNDS FOR COMPLAINT

         A student has right to lodge a complaint or lodge an appeal against a decision made in relation to
         a complaint or grievance covered by this Policy if the student believes they have been adversely
         affected by one or more of the following: -


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         •   improper, irregular or negligent conduct against a student by a staff member of the
             University

         •   failure by a University staff member to act fairly or without prejudice or bias

         •   failure to adhere to appropriate or relevant published University policies and procedures

         •   a decision made without sufficient consideration of facts, evidence or circumstances of
             specific relevance to the student

         •   a penalty, where applied, is considered too harsh.

         •   failure by the University to make a decision within a timely manner.

9        PROCEDURES IN THE GRIEVANCE AND COMPLAINTS PROCESS
         The following sections indicate the procedure in dealing with Informal or Formal Complaint.

         Informal Complaints Resolution

         An informal complaint will normally be an oral complaint. Informal complaints are generally
         considered by providing informal advice and support to enable the complainant to decide whether
         to take no action, deal with the matter individually, request a meeting to discuss the informal
         complaint or request that the grievance be taken through the formal grievance process. The first
         point of contact should be the supervisor or person responsible for the area in which the alleged
         grievance has occurred. Information regarding the informal grievances may be recorded in each
         organisational unit and submitted to the University Ombudsman at the end of each year.

             a) Complainant raises concern regarding a particular service or process

             b) Staff member will listen to the concern

             c) Staff member will explore options and implications of resolving the issue
                In making the determination one of the following options will be chosen.
                    • No action is deem appropriate
                    • Lodge a suggestion form available at www.latrobe.edu.au/complaints
                    • Advise the complainant to Lodge a formal written complaint (ensuring the
                        complainant understand the process to be followed)
             d) Recording of Informal Complaints
                Organisational Units may determine the process of recording informal complaints,
                however recording is not mandatory

         Formal written Complaints

             a) Complainant raises Formal Complaint
                A person who is dissatisfied with any University service, decision or process
                 • can make a formal written complaint (by letter, email or advised format) to the
                      person or area responsible for providing it. The complainant must make clear
                      that it is a complaint, as opposed to comments, feedback or suggestion. Any
                      formal complaint will result in a direct response to the complainant.

                         A complainant must provide where appropriate their full name and La Trobe
                         student identity number . Please note a group of students may lodge one
                         complaint, but each must provide their full name and student identity number.

                    •    are required to initiate the formal complaint within 10 weeks of the specific
                         incident or decision that forms the substance of the complaint, and within 14
                         days for assessment complaints.



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                    •    may make a complaint about an on-going service or process at any time during
                         their admission, application for scholarship, enrolment or attendance.

                    •    are advised to keep notes of any incident or actions that form part of their
                         complaint.

                    •    are advised that no person or agency may complain on behalf of a student.

                    Note: Alternatively, a complainant may lodge a complaint directly with the University
                    Ombudsman under University Regulation 39.1. The complaint must be put in writing
                    no later than twelve months after the action or decision the subject of complaint
                    (unless the Ombudsman considers that special circumstances justify an extension of
                    time).


             b) University receives the Formal Complaint and records it
                Upon receiving the formal complaint staff shall request a “complaint handling reference
                number” which will be used to track the complaint internally. The information to be
                stored will assist the University in reporting information regarding the number of
                complaints.

             c) University will acknowledge the complaint
                Upon receiving the formal complaint, the University will acknowledge the complaint in
                writing (via letter or electronic means) to the complainant(s) within 5 business days.

                  The acknowledgement will include i) the name of the staff member who will be
                  handling the complaint, ii) an outline of the process being used to resolve the
                  complaint and iii) the estimated time frame for resolving the complaint. If special
                  circumstances delay or prevent the provision of the above details, the acknowledgment
                  letter will explain the delay and indicate when a detailed response will be sent. When a
                  delay has not been indicated in the acknowledgment letter and such a delay occurs the
                  complainant must be notified in writing of a revised time frame for resolving the
                  complaint.

             d) University will investigate the complaint
                Under this policy the staff member who receives the complaint can delegate the
                investigation and resolution of the complaint to a member of staff who has the authority
                and skills to investigate and resolve complaints.
                  • The investigating staff member may consult with and seek advice from any
                       appropriate University Committee or staff member, discussing the complaint as
                       a ‘case in principle” where possible.
                  • The investigating staff member may request a formal meeting with the
                       complainant or any other staff member. Complainants should be advised at this
                       point they may bring a support person with them to any such meeting. No
                       person or agency may appear on behalf of a complainant except in special
                       circumstances with the permission of the person conducting the hearing.
                  • A complainant has the right to be heard either through written submission and/or
                       personal representation at any formal meeting considering their complaint.

             e) University will communicate the decision or resolution
                Communication of the decision or resolution shall occur within 5 business days after
                the decision has been made. The University will communicate the decision or
                resolution in writing to the last known mailing address of the complainant as recorded
                by the University.




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10       TIMELINES FOR FORMAL COMPLAINT RESOLUTION

             a)   Complainant raises Formal Complaint                 Within 10 Weeks of incident or decision or
                                                                      Within 14 days for assessment complaints

             b)   Timeframe to resolve the complaint                  Various as determined by University

             c) University will acknowledge the complaint             Within 5 working days

             d) University will investigate complaint                 As determined in b)

             e) University will communicate decision                  Within 5 working days


11       PARTICIPATION AND SUPPORT AVAILABLE DURING THE COMPLAINT RESOLUTION
         PROCESS
         Complainants should be made aware of various staff and organisations which may provide
         assistance during the Complaint Resolution process.

         Teaching Staff
         Academic Services Manager or Registrar in each Faculty
         Counselling Service staff
         Equity and Access
         Staff or elected representative of Student organisations

12       WITHDRAWAL OF A GRIEVANCE OR COMPLAINT

         A complainant may at any time during the complaints resolution process withdraw a complaint by
         placing the intent to withdraw the complaint or grievance in writing and forwarding it to the member
         of staff to whom the original complaint was raised or the person designated to handle the
         complaint as informed by the University.

13       REVIEWS AND APPEALS
         If after formal notification of the decision or resolution, a complainant doesn’t believe that the
         complaint has been adequately resolved, then he or she may seek an investigation or
         reconsideration by way of review or appeal to the University Ombudsman under University Statute
         39. The complainant must lodge the written complaint with the University Ombudsman no later
         than twelve months after the action or decision the subject of complaint (unless the University
         Ombudsman considers that special circumstances justify an extension of that time).

13       EXTERNAL AGENCIES

         The Ombudsman Victoria is an independent statutory office holder whose role is to investigate
         complaints about administrative actions and decisions taken by State government departments
         and authorities including universities.

         If a complainant, after following the avenues available within this procedure, is not satisfied with
         the outcome or process of a student appeal, he or she may wish to take their complaint to:-

         Ombudsman Victoria
         Level 3 South Tower
         459 Collins Street
         MELBOURNE 3000

         DX 210174

         Telephone 03 9613 6222


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         Facsimile 03 9614 0246

         Toll Free 1800 806 314
         Email: ombudvic@ombudsman.vic.gov.au

         www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au

12       ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

         This Complaint and Grievance handling policy and procedures of a number of organisations were
         considered during the development of this policy and procedure. Sections of this policy have been
         adapted from a range of organisations. The policies of the following organisations are
         acknowledged as reference points: Charles Sturt University, Deakin University, University of
         Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Queensland Ombudsman Office, Monash University,
         University of Adelaide.




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